Outright win give Firebirds a chance

The Wellington Firebirds have made the most of favourable weather and modest opposition to thrust themselves back into contention for the Plunket Shield cricket title.

A resounding victory on the fourth and final afternoon against the Auckland Aces today propelled Wellington into third place with two rounds remaining.

After thumping the competition stragglers by 126 runs at Colin Maiden Park in Auckland, the eight points pocketed for an outright result lifted Wellington into third place, just three behind the Central Stags, whose progressed stalled this week when their match against the Northern Knights in Napier fell foul of inclement weather.

Only 8.2 overs were possible on the opening day of the four-day fixture at Napier, leaving both sides to cool their heels and glance elsewhere, particularly Auckland, where neither Wellington nor the home team pleased the purists with the quality of their play.

But at least Wellington emerged with the result they wanted after rolling Auckland for just 144 in their second innings today, well short of the 270 they sought to sneak a second win this summer.

Wellington fast bowler Mark Gillespie and Andy McKay did the damage as Auckland failed to get out of first gear, slipping to 33 for four and 81 for seven before Brad Cachopa and Michael Bates finally showed some signs of resistance.

Cachopa scored 33 and fast bowler Bates an unbeaten 32 but the damage had been done before they strode to the middle as Gillespie ended with figures of four for 44 and McKay three for 30.

Earlier, Auckland spinner Bruce Martin at least had the satisfaction of snaring the 16th five-wicket haul of his first-class career after Wellington resumed their second innings at 138 for eight.

Wellington edged their way through to 162 but not before Martin chipped in with the wicket of Gillespie to give his an innings return of five for 57 off 19 overs.

International paceman Chris Martin continued his strong domestic form, with four for 48, to give him a match analysis of nine for 95.


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